Black Rhinoceros

Diceros bicornis

The Black Rhinoceros (Diceros Bicornis) is a species of rhinoceros located in some parts of Africa. It is currently endangered, with only around 5000 of these animals left in the wild. Right now, various zoos such as Taronga are trying to help this species increase in numbers.
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*[ABOVE]: location of the Black Rhino

HABITAT

In the wild, the Black Rhinoceros tends to live in the following habitats:



  • Tropical/Subtropical Grasslands
  • Shrublands


These rhinos dwell in the habitats stated above because they require a healthy supply of shrubs, woody herbs and plant-life, little areas of shade and a nearby water source and mineral licks.

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NATURAL HABITAT vs ZOO ENCLOSURE:


1. SIMILARITIES

The enclosures used to take care of Black Rhinos in zoos have some similarities to their habitat in the wild.



  • Zoos provide these rhinos their basic needs with objects that mix into the man-made habitat. Rocks are for mineral licks, small rivers/ponds serve as a water source and there are plenty of trees for shade.


  • Like a Black Rhino's natural habitat, zoos build their enclosures with a flat ground for the Black Rhino. There wouldn't be any hills or rocky mountains because grasslands and shrublands are usually flat or have slight slopes.


2. DIFFERENCES

Being a minimized area of space compared to the wild, and likely located in a different country, a Black Rhino enclosure must have some differences.



  • In some Black Rhino enclosures, grass isn't grown for the rhino to graze on. Zoos use hay, fresh produce and pellets to feed their Black Rhinos instead of them eating plants from their enclosure due to the minimal space (this isn't always the case, as some zoos grow grass, but the grass is likely different from the grass in the wild).


  • Instead of always keeping them in an outside enclosure, zoos provide Black Rhinos with heated rooms for the winter, as climate change would be different in another country far from Africa (where the Black Rhino originates). These rooms would be adjacent to the outside enclosure. Without them, the temperature could get too cold for the Black Rhino since they are adapted to warmer temperatures.


  • Different species of flora are planted in the enclosure. They are not plants found in the Black Rhino's natural habitat due to different climates. For example, the Baobab Tree, one that's abundant in savannas, would be replaced by perhaps a Honey Locust Tree. As stated before, a different type of grass would cover the Black Rhino's enclosure, since the wild grass in the Black Rhino's habitat would be impossible to grow.
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*[ABOVE]: Black Rhino enclosures

ADAPTATIONS

The Black Rhino has many adaptations that help it survive in the wild. They are:


  • Skin- this skin is thick and layered, being strong overall. It protects rhinos from sharp grasses and thorns.


  • Feet- the soles of a Black Rhino's feet have thick padding, which absorbs shock and cushions the legs. Being large, they also keep the Black Rhino very well balanced.


  • Upper lip- the pointed upper lip is prehensile, meaning it can grasp objects. This helps the Black Rhino in foraging and browsing for food (they are herbivores).


  • Ears- the ears are quite large and can rotate from the left to the right of the Black Rhino's head. This ability to rotate can pick up sounds from many directions.


  • Horns- the 2 horns on the Black Rhino's head are tough and pointed, harmful to whatever it rams into. It is used for defense and offense against other animals.


  • An aggressive nature (behavioral adaptation)- although they may look sluggish, Black Rhinos can be violent and are actually quite fast. If one is to harm the Black Rhino, it would likely ram, thinking that one to be an enemy. They tend to charge first and investigate later.This discourages predators from trying to attack on a direct approach.
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*[ABOVE]: Diagram of a Black Rhino's adaptations
In zoos, some of these adaptations are not necessarily too important for survival. The horns, which are used against anything that could agitate the Black Rhino, wouldn't be used much at a zoo since there aren't any enemies. This is the same for the Black Rhino's aggressive nature, as the rhino doesn't need to show much aggression towards anyone.

In that case, the Black Rhino may be more passive at zoos than in the wild.

HUMAN ACTIVITIES THAT HAVE MADE THIS SPECIES ENDANGERED

The sole reason why Black Rhinos are endangered is the act of poaching. Starting in 1970, poachers hunted these rhinos either for their tough horns (to sell for thousands of dollars) or even just for fun. Some Asian cultures also believed that the horn could make good medicine, which is another reason for poachers to hunt these creatures. During the following years until 1992 (when the poaching finally started to decline), around 5 Black Rhinos could possibly die per day.


Afterwards, when the craze ended, it was reported that around 96% of the species' population had been wiped out, with around 2000 animals left (now 5000). With such a low number, the Black Rhinos were on the verge of extinction even after that end of poaching. If preservation doesn't continue, and if illegal poaching is still about, the species could truly become extinct.

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*[ABOVE]: a Black Rhino's horn sliced off, flesh likely to have been cut off with it. The horns displayed below that picture sell for around $80000 per kilo.

STEPS TAKEN TOWARDS PRESERVATION

Luckily, there are quite a few organisations and zoos running programs and fundraisers to help the Black Rhino. One such organisation is the World Wide Fund for Nature (preferred to be referred as WWF). WWF is responsible for funding many endangered species and created methods to stop threats towards the species such as poaching. They themselves have set up charities for people like us to donate.
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People are also allowed to "adopt" a Black Rhino. Adopting an animal from an endangered species means that you yourself can support a particular animal under the care of an organisation. The money people donate supports WWF's missions to save the Black Rhinos.
Various zoos (e.g Taronga) have also set up breeding programs to increase the number of Black Rhinos. These programs have been quite successful. In the 1990s, when poaching started to decrease, there were only around 2000 of the Black Rhino left. Ever since breeding programs began over numerous zoos, the Black Rhino's numbers had risen to around 5000 remaining.
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*[ABOVE]: "Save the Rhino", an organisation that supports all rhinos. One good deed they have done is providing human guard (rangers) against poachers that may enter an area with rhinos.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

National Geographic, 2015, Washington DC-USA, accessed 18/11/2015

http://animals.nationalgeographic.com.au/animals/mammals/black-rhinoceros/



Save the Rhino International, 2015, London- England, accessed 18/11/2015

https://www.savetherhino.org/rhino_info/species_of_rhino/black_rhinos/black_rhino_factfile


Taronga, 2015, Australia, accessed 19/11/2015

https://taronga.org.au/animal/black-rhinoceros


WWF Global, 2015, Gland- Switzerland, accessed 19/11/2015

http://wwf.panda.org/what_we_do/endangered_species/rhinoceros/african_rhinos/black_rhinoceros/


Rose Kivi, BrightHub, 2012, Troy- USA, accessed 22/11/2015

http://www.brighthub.com/environment/science-environmental/articles/121317.aspx